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What does Open Government Mean to You?

2010 March 4

At the start of his administration, President Obama announced his commitment to Open Government and the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration. Although we still have work to do at EPA to further these principles, I believe that we have made great strides in embracing the spirit of Open Government. On February 5th, we launched our Open Government Web page where we share our progress in meeting our Open Government goals.

As EPA’s lead for developing a formal plan for the Agency to more fully implement Open Government, I’d like to know your thoughts on what our Open Government Plan should embrace. What does Open Government mean to you? Is it having more data available to conduct your own analyses? Is it knowing more about the research and regulatory efforts we have underway at EPA? Is being able to more directly participate and collaborate with us in our environmental mission. Are there fundamental or philosophical changes that you believe we need to make in order to truly achieve open government?

Although I have been in federal service for many years, I joined EPA just over a year ago. While I had a good sense about the general mission of the Agency, I was unaware of some of the truly amazing work that goes on in the EPA that supports Open Government. For example, in the last year I learned that EPA has a wealth of environmental data to support actions on many levels– our national programs, our communities, and our personal health. I wonder how many people know about our vast data holdings that range from extensive watershed data, to the compliance history of the facilities we regulate, to air quality and ultraviolet (UV) radiation indices that help you decide when it is unhealthy to be outside.

I am a big fan of our MyEnvironment application which is accessible from our home page. I use MyEnvironment to get information about the areas where my family and I live and play.

Looking ten years into the future, how do you hope that Open Government will have transformed the way that we serve the public and protect human health and the environment? I’m looking forward to learning about the creative and innovative thoughts people have that will help EPA work better with you and better protect the environment and public health.

About the author: Lisa Schlosser is the Director of EPA’s Office of Information Collection.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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23 Responses leave one →
  1. murray mccory permalink
    March 4, 2010

    IF WE HAVE OPEN GOVERNMENT, WHY CAN’T I GET A REPLY FROM THEM? I have already applied for an answer to the EPA involvement in regulation off-shore drilling in the USA, but the USA subsidizing off-shore drilling in Brazil.
    Since high school, I wanted to know how tax money is appropriated to world wide causes. If a practice, service, product, or civil rights are addressed in this country, and enforced with legislation, then why is our tax money be spent in other countries world-wide that conflict with our national laws? We allow a free trade bill, NAFTA, to be legislated, then we send our manufacturing business to other countries where there exists child labor, sweatshops, poor to horrible working conditions. We have the EPA, which forbids off-shore drilling in the USA much of the time, yet our tax money is being sent to Brazil to develop off-shore drilling for oil that will be sent to China. In 1967 my father and I started a business (JanSport) which eventually hired, paid, benefitted thousands of women sewing machine operators. In the early 90’s, because of NAFTA, they were laid of, by the thousands, millions country wide, in all related industries. Now we have a jobs bill which supports illegal alien labor, to further the problem. Government allocations of federal funds has overshadowed any rational reply to my questions.

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Government to Government, bilateral or multilateral.
    Experience of EPA, since 1970, to be needed by the other countries, especially for the developing countries. For the future, EPA must be anticipate and participate among global interests and universal interests.

  3. David Mc permalink
    March 4, 2010

    So JanSport is now forced to use illegal labor?

  4. David Mc permalink
    March 4, 2010

    I’m more interested in a truthful government. Not the ol’ two stepping around the issues.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 5, 2010

    EPA has already taken a big step in allowing participation in its decision making process by a new website that allows persons to comment on regulations as they are in different stages of development before they reach federal register stage. This is a major change and one that will lead to better regulations with more popular support. Another step that might be done is something like the White House did last December with its Community Jobs Forums organized by and for community members who met in small groups across the country to discuss ways to improve the economy and job growth in their areas and email a report back to the White House. People First, California, Orange County Chapter did a Community Jobs Forum for the White House and it was a great way to bring up new ideas, to share ideas and talk about ways to reduce the unemployment rate in the disabled community that now stands at 85% in California. It would be great if EPA could do similar small group community forums on important air and water and soil issues and on things like how to move our transit systems to electric powered and hydrogen powered buses. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. Al Bannet permalink
    March 5, 2010

    EPA’s “Open Government” website completely ignored my input and kicked my comment back here in this forum, and my link to say anything else has been blocked. Apparently, the bureaucrats only want to hear good news and how to “get this economy back on track growing again”, including the insane concept of “sustainable growth”, as if this shrinking Earth could forever accomodate humanity’s economic expansion.

  7. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    March 5, 2010

    Al, we publish critical comments as well as positive ones, including many of both types from you personally.

    I’ll send you an email to follow up – I’d like to know more about what happened in this case.


    Jeffrey Levy
    Director of Web Communications

  8. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    March 5, 2010

    Hi. I’m not sure what we might have on this issue, but I’ll send you an email to follow up.


    Jeffrey Levy
    Director of Web Communications

  9. James Salsman permalink
    March 5, 2010

    I like the ability to get answers to questions which decades of powerful and rich lobbyists have tried to hide. Questions like, is 30% renewable power feasible by 2020? (Answer: yes! “with or without legislation” in Colorado.) And, how much uranium is in coal? (Answer: coal burning produces more than 1,000 times as much uranium as nuclear power, if you don’t count Iraq in 1991 and 2003.) And how does the EPA regulate uranium? (Answer: using a formula based only on its weak radiation and the irrelevant chemical toxicity to kidneys only, completely ignoring uranium’s chemical carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity, teratogenicity, neurotoxicity, and even its mutagenicity!)

    I’m grateful and appreciative to the EPA Open Government team for helping me with learning these facts, and glad I was able to get the information I learned to the EPA Inspector General so that the omission of uranium chemical toxicity can be corrected by those charged with making such corrections.

    However, I am still waiting to learn if the 100% renewable by 2030 plans — e.g. — have ever been economically scored by the EPA. I like the EPA models because they include many more externalities (they are therefore more economically accurate) and produce errors of prediction (confidence intervals) unlike the Department of Energy’s EIA models, which do not, but should.

  10. Jackenson Durand permalink
    March 5, 2010

    An open Government means the same as my ideological perspective on a new millennium world.
    A global clean air and environment shall better protect the human civilization.
    It shall not have frontier for any Country development economics.
    That is why; we must look great West Countries Intercontinental Governments partenaria as example.
    An open Government would be most fit for 21st Century by “touching all issues”.
    Transparency and participation shall be the Globalization palpable ideology for any kind of current Government.

  11. wade harter permalink
    March 5, 2010

    If what we now have is open government, Lord help us when it is closed. That “Hope and Change” policy has truely filled me with plenty of Hope and Change for something different than what has been so far. It sounds like, to me, that the people do not want Obama’s version of hope and change.

  12. Kyle permalink
    March 5, 2010

    Open government, while requiring certain security measures, needs to not only share information but to be open to the best information available on issues such as clean air and water, and topics like Global warming.

    I recently listened to hours of dialog regarding the latest on gathering accurate information on Global warming (by Tulane University’s Michael Zimmerman. He has co-authored a book about this issue. )

    The insight is eye opening and when applied to something as simple but close-to-home as my association with an HVAC company, and how environmental concerns affect us all, it really does trickle down from open government to local business.

    So,Open Government is vital to local application.

  13. Stephen Buckley permalink
    March 5, 2010


    As EPA’s Chief Information Officer, you are in charge of so, of course, you know that it is federal agencies that always “go first” when it comes to offering ideas for government improvement. Then it’s the public’s “turn”, i.e. to provide comments on those ideas (e.g., proposed regulations, etc.).

    Now, however, for the first time at EPA (and other federal agencies), the public is supposed to “go first” with specific “How-To” proposals. And this is Different from asking people What they want the end-conditions to be (e.g., clearer understanding of EPA actions).

    But, as an experiment in Collaboration (i.e., citizens-ideas-first), then it is still NOT clear whether EPA, then, will provide Feedback on our Ideas, or will simply skip that step and simply issue a final EPA Plan (which would be ironic) about how create better public engagement.

    FYI: “Feedback to the Public” is already an essential part of EPA’s *existing* policy on Public Involvement.

    P.S. to Jeff Levy: Will Lisa ever respond to the feedback here? Or are you supposed to do it for her? Does she at least read them before you answer them for her? (It’s not a very engaging conversation when a person doesn’t know who they are actually talking with.)

  14. Al Bannet permalink
    March 6, 2010

    Twice now I have replied to you and both times the post has disappeared. This is number three.

  15. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    March 6, 2010

    I’ve written to you again today to ask for details. Please reply.


    Jeffrey Levy

  16. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    March 6, 2010

    Hi. I don’t speak for anyone but myself, so I can’t tell you for certain whether Lisa will reply. FYI, Lisa’s not the Chief Information Officer; she heads the Office of Information Collection within the CIO’s larger office.

    You’ve asked a good question, though, so either she or I will respond next week when we’re back in the office.


    Jeffrey Levy

  17. Al Bannet permalink
    March 7, 2010


    You’ve probably heard the answer to your question stated as: “Money talks and the people walk.” These days the government is 99% in the pockets of big corporations, partly because they can’t get elected without their millions of campaign contributions, so the corporate lobbyists rule Washington from behind the scenes, and American jobs go to the cheaper labor of other nations, while millions of illegal aliens flood the USA where their illegal status makes them vulnerable to more profitable exploitation than that of legal citizens. It’s all about money and the human race is addicted.

  18. lisa schlosser permalink
    March 8, 2010

    Kyle, I like this insightful yet simple observation…thanks

  19. lisa schlosser permalink
    March 8, 2010

    Hi, I am happy to jump into the conversation – I very much appreciate the dialogue and feedback. As I write this, we have a very engaged team looking at all the input we have received to date. We are using this input in two ways right off the bat: 1) to determine if we can rapidly provide the data requested – if so, we are going to highlight that information on our Open Government Web Site – we expect to start doing this within the next week or two; and 2) to drive the development of our Open Government Plan. Also, we will keep a forum open to continuously engage with the public on our Open Government Plan, and will provide feedback on what and how comments were incorporated. More to come.

  20. Al Bannet permalink
    March 11, 2010

    This problem was resolved OK. Thanks Mr. Levy.

  21. wahid polin permalink
    August 3, 2010

    I’m grateful and appreciative to the EPA Open Government team for helping me with learning these facts, and glad I was able to get the information I learned to the EPA Inspector General so that the omission of uranium chemical toxicity can be corrected by those charged with making such corrections.

  22. Patrick| Local Impact permalink
    October 25, 2011

    I believe the fact that you are asking the public what they want in an open government format is, in itself, a huge step in that very direction.

    I also believe that an open government format should include more raw information available online with open access to all to enable more versatility in the use of that information based on the needs and requirements of the individual or organization seeking the information.

    The local impact of actions policies and laws can then be analyzed through raw data with focus on the premise unique to the group effected, which will aid in an effective design of solutions and directions. Patrick CEO

  23. simisymon permalink
    January 21, 2012

    i have trust in open government and EPA does a great job.

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